Black Diamond’s MacGyver of green energy

Les Quinton has saved $75,000 and an amazing 615 megawatt hours of electricity with his energy efficiency initiatives

BLACK DIAMOND, AB, Jun 11, 2014/ Troy Media/ – I met Les Quinton at his office at the the Oilfields Regional Arena in beautiful Black Diamond, Alberta nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains just south of Calgary. Quinton is the head of parks and facilities and an unassuming man with an amazing handlebar mustache who can best be described as the MacGyver of community green energy.

As I walked in, Quinton was poring over spreadsheets on his computer with data from his various green energy and energy efficiency projects. He’s been at this since before green energy was cool.

“We got involved with the Alberta Municipal Solar Showcase back at the end of 2006 . . . and we ended with 1.82 kilowatt solar system.” This was before the micro-generation regulation in Alberta so it took six months of paperwork just to get this small solar system installed.

Soon after this first foray into solar energy, the town of 2300 people started putting up more projects.

“We have a fair amount of solar, we have a little over 16 kilowatts on the arena roof, and five kilowatts on the office roof and two and a half kilowatts of wind,” smiles Quinton.

Today, Black Diamond has a Sustainable Black Diamond Advisory Committee and it even has its own residential solar program that has already helped half a dozen residents install solar systems, not with money, but mostly with good advice.

The secret sauce in Black Diamond is the green reserve fund that is funded by the savings from Quinton’s energy efficiency and conservation initiatives and by the green energy projects. With this fund in place, Quinton manages to sock about $7,000 away each year for future green energy projects.

“Our council backs all the projects. One of our councillors was one of the ones who came up with the idea of the green reserve,” says Quinton.

Black Diamond’s recent 10-kilowatt solar project was funded by the green reserve fund and with a little help from Bullfrog Power’s Bullfrog Builds program.

Solar panels are cool but where Les Quinton earns his MacGyver stripes is in energy efficiency. Quinton took us for a tour of the Oilfields Regional Arena and revealed his secrets.

“We have an outdoor refrigerated hockey rink and by using a weather station and having it shut off with the temperatures and at night it’s reduced the run-time by about 1,200 hours a year. That works out to about 30,000 kilowatts of power,” says Quinton.

The cheapest way to save energy is to simply not use it. Quinton used a little bit of technology and a weather station to shut off the ice plant when it’s cold or not needed.

In the indoor rink, Quinton added a low-e ceiling which enabled him to raise the temperature of the ice, saving another 800 hours of refrigeration. Low flow toilets and showerheads save a whopping 18,000 gallons of hot water when hockey players leave the showers on. New pipes, energy efficient pumps and better behaviour helped workers save about 280,000 gallons of water in the Zamboni water system. A simple timer ensured the heaters in the bleachers were only on when needed. Add in LED lights and dozens of other small innovations and Black Diamond has saved $75,000 and an amazing 615 megawatt hours of electricity from energy efficiency projects.

Quinton did it the right way. He didn’t go straight to the big, showy solar project, but took out the low hanging fruit to maximize energy efficiency and energy conservation He is getting the best bang for his buck with his solar modules. With his newly installed 10-kilowatt solar project, he’s even projecting that he’ll be selling solar energy back to the grid this summer.

Troy Media columnists David Dodge is host and Duncan Kinney editor and production manager of Green Energy Futures, a multi-media series presented at The series is supported by Suncor Energy, TD, Shell Canada and the Pembina Institute.

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